Sony Xpe­ria XZ1

CHRIS MARTIN gets his hands on Sony’s lat­est hand­set

Android Advisor - - Contents -

IFA al­ways means new gad­gets and you can rely on Sony to bring a few to the party. This year is no ex­cep­tion and the firm re­leased three new Xpe­ria phones – the XZ1, XZ1 Com­pact and XA1 Plus. Over the fol­low­ing pages we look at the XZ1 (£599). For more on Sony’s Xpe­ria XZ1 Com­pact go to page 62.

De­sign

Over the years, Sony has de­vel­oped a style of smart­phone de­sign that’s in­stantly rec­og­niz­able. Xpe­ria de­vices have a dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter which helps some­what in the crowded mar­ket. The XZ1 is cer­tainly no de­par­ture from what we’ve seen be­fore. It is a con­tin­u­a­tion of it which has pros and cons.

We like the ‘Loop Sur­face’ de­sign, which in­cor­po­rates a metal uni­body chas­sis and a Go­rilla Glass 5 front. Over­all, the phone looks like its pre­de­ces­sor but with small im­prove­ments so the metal rear cover gets rid of the slightly ugly strip along the bot­tom of the XZ.

Sony says the tweaked de­sign is es­pe­cially strong and is anti-twist and anti-bend. It does feel solid to us dur­ing some hands-on time.

As you would ex­pect Sony con­tin­ues to of­fer wa­ter­proof­ing so the XZ1 is IP65/68 rated so it’s fully dunk­able in fresh water. There’s also a fin­ger­print scan­ner neatly en­gi­neered into the power but­ton on the side.

We did men­tion there are cons and that’s when it comes to the bezels. With the tiny bezels on of­fer with the Sam­sung Gal­axy S8 and LG G6, Sony’s screen-to­body ra­tio looks even worse than nor­mal. The XZ1 is quite a big de­vice for a phone with a 5.2in screen.

The Xpe­ria XZ1 will be avail­able in a range of colours in­clud­ing Black, Moon­lit Blue, Venus Pink and Warm Sil­ver.

Hard­ware

While the de­sign is pretty sim­i­lar to last year’s model, the XZ1 has a num­ber of up­grades in the hard­ware de­part­ment to bring it up to date.

Screen

The screen re­mains at 5.2in so it’s a smaller op­tion com­pared to the XZ Premium. The res­o­lu­tion is also Full HD which Sony is stick­ing to on most phones to help with bat­tery life.

How­ever, the XZ1’s dis­play sup­ports HDR (High Dy­namic Range) for im­proved el­e­ments like colour and con­trast. It can look a bit over the top at times but is gen­er­ally well re­garded.

The is­sue, as usual, is that you need to be watch­ing HDR con­tent to take ad­van­tage of the tech­nol­ogy and there’s still not a huge amount avail­able. That said, Sony said that Net­flix HDR con­tent will be avail­able on the de­vice at launch.

That’s on top of Ama­zon Prime Video which was pre­vi­ously the only way to watch HDR con­tent.

Pro­ces­sor, mem­ory and stor­age

A 12-month re­fresh wouldn’t re­ally be a re­fresh with­out some new in­ter­nal com­po­nents and the head­line here is that the Xpe­ria XZ1 is pow­ered by the Qual­comm Snap­dragon 835, the firm’s flag­ship mo­bile plat­form.

That’s the same as the XZ Premium and other topend phones such as the Sam­sung Gal­axy Note8 (in some mar­kets). Sony might be of­fer­ing the cheap­est phones with the 835 in the XZ1 and XZ1 Com­pact.

There’s 4GB of RAM and 64GB of stor­age which is dou­ble its pre­de­ces­sor and matches the XZ Premium. Sony faith­fully of­fers ex­pand­able stor­age in the form of a mi­croSD card slot so you can add more any­way.

Connectivity and au­dio

Sony doesn’t go down the route Sam­sung takes by adding fea­tures such as a heart rate mon­i­tor and iris scan­ner. In­stead, it fo­cuses on au­dio like HTC does.

To that end, the Xpe­ria XZ1 has front fac­ing stereo speak­ers with more sound pres­sure than any phone Sony has made be­fore. It was cer­tainly loud dur­ing a demon­stra­tion but we’ll test qual­ity fur­ther when we have a sam­ple.

Other fea­tures in­clude Hi-Res au­dio sup­port, an LDAC, Qual­comm aptX Blue­tooth and DSEE HX with DNC which will es­sen­tially up­scale com­pressed files like MP3 to pro­vide bet­ter qual­ity.

There is, of course, a head­phone jack and Sony has even made some new head­phones to com­pli­ment the phone with har­mo­nized colours.

Cam­eras

Pho­tog­ra­phy re­mains a key area for Sony when it comes to sell­ing phones and we’re pleased to see the phys­i­cal cam­era/shut­ter but­ton lives on.

The res­o­lu­tion might have dropped from 23- to 19Mp but over­all the cam­era is an im­prove­ment as shown in the XZ Premium. Larger pix­els mean bet­ter low light per­for­mance, for ex­am­ple.

What’s good to see is that the XZ1 gets fea­tures from the XZ Premium as well as some new ones.

Users will be able to make use of the 960fps su­per slow mo­tion mode with­out splash­ing out on the Premium. It’s the high­est frame rate on any phone, but you can only record at that rate for one second.

Other neat fea­tures in­clude Pre­dic­tive Cap­ture which will take some pho­tos be­fore you hit the but­ton so you don’t miss an im­por­tant mo­ment and Smile Shut­ter which will au­to­mat­i­cally cap­ture when it de­tects some­one is smil­ing.

Aut­o­fo­cus burst mode is per­haps the most im­pres­sive (sub­ject to proper test­ing) as it can shoot 10 pho­tos per second all while focusing on a mov­ing sub­ject. You can shoot for up to 10 sec­onds sim­ply by hold­ing the but­ton down and select what frames you want to keep or even make a short video clip from them.

One of the main new el­e­ments Sony is shout­ing about, though, is 3D scan­ning. There’s no tech­ni­cal hard­ware wiz­ardry go­ing on but a pre­loaded app means you can scan things like peo­ple heads or inan­i­mate ob­jects with the cam­era.

You can then share these scans on­line, although users will have to view them on a web page rather than na­tively on social me­dia sites like Face­book, set them as a live wall­pa­per or even or­der them to be printed into a 3D model by a third party.

It’s all pretty im­pres­sive but we can’t imag­ine any­one us­ing it more than a hand­ful of times just

for fun or pure in­trigue. At the front re­mains a 13Mp cam­era for all those self­ies and it seems de­cent from some hands-on time.

Bat­tery life

Fol­low­ing in Sam­sung’s foot­steps with the Note8, Sony has dropped the bat­tery ca­pac­ity from 2900- to 2,700mAh for the Xpe­ria XZ1.

Even so, Sony prom­ises all day bat­tery life for the life­span of the phone. There’s no wire­less charg­ing so you’ll have to make do with USB-C in­clud­ing Qual­comm Quick Charge 3.0.

Soft­ware

Un­like the Note8, the Xpe­ria XZ1 will be one of the first phones to ship with An­droid Oreo pre­loaded – hence why the re­lease date is cur­rently un­known.

On the sur­face, there’s not a lot that is dif­fer­ent com­pared to Nougat and that’s partly be­cause Oreo isn’t a ma­jor new ver­sion of the mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tem. Oreo brings im­prove­ments and new fea­tures such as faster boot times, aut­ofill lo­gins, bet­ter bat­tery life and pic­ture-in-pic­ture for a dif­fer­ent kind of mul­ti­task­ing.

Per­haps the big­ger lure when it comes to soft­ware is Sony’s own apps such as Walk­man and PS4 Re­mote Play, which add value, es­pe­cially for those with a PlayS­ta­tion.

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